Credit Cheryl Senter for The New York Times
Meg Whitman, the chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, railed against Donald J. Trump at a closed-door meeting of Republicans in Park City, Utah, on Friday, comparing him to demagogues like Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
Ms. Whitman’s comments came at Mitt Romney’s annual retreat of Republican donors, leaders, and business executives, and were confirmed by three attendees who heard her remarks, but declined to be identified because the meetings were private. They were first reported by The Washington Post.
Mr. Trump’s candidacy and the divisions it is causing among leading Republicans was an undercurrent of the gathering. At the same retreat, Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor, moderated a panel with the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, and pressed him on his decision to support Mr. Trump, according to a fourth attendee.
Ms. Whitman, according to one of the people present, did not stop at comparing Mr. Trump to the Axis leaders. She also warned the gathering that if Republicans compromised on their principles this one time to win an important election, they would be entering fraught territory. “What happens next time?” she asked, implying it could lead to more compromises and more candidates like Mr. Trump.
A representative for Ms. Whitman did not respond early Saturday to a request for an interview about her remarks at the retreat.
Ms. Whitman, who ran for governor of California in 2010 and was Mr. Romney’s 2012 finance co-chairwoman, was part of a group of major donors who mounted an effort to stop Mr. Trump during the primaries through paid advertising. She has been explicit about her disdain for him.
“I won’t be voting for Donald Trump,” she told CNBC in March. “Look at the comments he’s made about women, about Muslims, about reporters. It’s just repugnant.”
The group at the retreat represented a mix of the Republican Party, divided between those who have said they cannot support Mr. Trump, like Mr. Romney, and those who have grudgingly endorsed him, like Mr. Ryan, who was Mr. Romney’s running mate in 2012.
In an emailed statement, Mr. Trump dismissed Ms. Whitman’s comments. “I never met Meg Whitman, but the job she is doing at Hewlett Packard is not a very good one,” Mr. Trump said. “Based on the disastrous campaign she ran in California, and the tens of millions of dollars she wasted, I have learned a lot from her. I do not want her support.”
Ms. Whitman spent $140 million of her own money in her unsuccessful campaign for governor.
Speaking at a rally in Tampa on Saturday, Mr. Trump also attacked Mr. Romney, calling him “a choker” and saying he “didn’t work like he should have worked” when he was the nominee in 2012. Once Mr. Romney lost, Mr. Trump added, he should have gone “off into the sunset.”
“You don’t sit there jealous and sick to your stomach,” he said.
Dan Scavino, the social media director and senior adviser on the Trump campaign, also criticized Mr. Ryan on Twitter on Saturday, linking to an article on a conservative website that accuses the speaker of harming his own party, complete with the headline: “Paul Ryan is the reason the G.O.P. is losing America.”
If the attendees were mixed on Mr. Trump, they were decidedly bullish on the party’s 2012 ticket. The two largest applause lines, said one of them, were statements that “Mitt Romney should have been president” and that “Paul Ryan should run for president.”
For those unwilling to support Mr. Trump, there was talk of writing in Mr. Romney, simply not voting in the presidential race, or even supporting Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s nominee.
Ms. Brown, who now runs an education website, is married to Dan Senor, who was an advisor to Mr. Ryan, and their two sons know the Republican leader. Turning to him at the panel discussion, Ms. Brown told Mr. Ryan that one morning one of her sons had asked why he had endorsed Mr. Trump, expressing his disappointment.
What, she asked Mr. Ryan, was she supposed to tell her child?
The attendee present for the exchange said Mr. Ryan appeared slightly rattled, but handled the question well. He said Mr. Ryan had explained that while he understood the disagreement among Republicans, he believed that his decision to support Mr. Trump would be better for the Republican Party in the long term.